Let us continue in our exposition of I Cor. 2:6-9 in this essay. In our former article we might discuss, rather in detail, the “pedagogical approach” of Paul here in this polemic with the church of God at Corinth. We shall not repeat, nor shall we lose sight of this implicit pedagogy of Paul in this letter.
On the contrary, we shall constantly keep in mind that Paul is addressing those who are “sanctified in Christ” and that they are such since they are “called saints” who have been called into the fellowship of His Son. (I Cor. 1:1-9). Neither shall we overlook the fact, that Paul here makes a contrast between the church and the world in our text, that is, between those who are “perfect,” having the mind of Christ, and those who are “the rulers of this world” and who do not know the wisdom of God in the mystery of godliness that is great! This building upon this contrast between the church and the world is the only sound pedagogy; it is the pedagogy of Scripture which says: “since ye are the perfect in Christ—walk as such saints!” Do I still hear someone mutter under his breath: “Condition!” I reply; speak up, don’t whisper and mutter and weep, but just try to make this:prerequisite act! Then the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, will cut off your evil machinations by the very roots! Try to speak this “wisdom” in the godless world unto their sanctification, and try to find a fit pedagogical motive for this in Scripture and in the Reformed Confessions! It simply cannot be done. Wherefore let us not attempt to be wiser than God with whom is understanding from the days of yore!
Howbeit, Paul says: we speak wisdom amongst the perfect!
In this passage three matters still claim our attention.
In the first place, we should further notice what the text here emphasizes. Paul does not at all speak the language of the rulers of this world. These rulers of this world speak the language of those who are the victims of the Vanity of vanities, which the Preacher sought out and set in writing in the Book of Ecclesiastes. They go in circles in their wisdom, the “vicious circle” of all things and, therefore, must surely in their wisdom constantly be destroyed. Such is the import of the passive, present participle: toon katargoumenoon. They are everlastingly engaged in the battle of earthly, natural and demonical consideration. Their vision and activities are limited to the earthly. They have no eye for the Lord of glory, a new heaven and a new earth. Such is the principle of all the kingdoms of this world. Hence, they are engaged in the pursuit of making this world a better place to live in. But all these attempts do not simplyend in failure, but they are a failure in their very essence and nature. Think of all the attempts of the world for the settlement of the world’s ills, as it bleeds out of a thousand wounds. Wars and rumors of wars are the order of the day; all is vanity, and all is perishing.
Could Paul possibly preach such wisdom?
On the contrary he speaks wisdom amongst the perfect. And it is a wisdom which the world does not know.
It never is the controlling directive in their life.
For what is wisdom?
Wisdom is more than theory. It is more than intellectual knowledge and pursuit. Wisdom is practical and it always views life, its problems, its solutions from the viewpoint of the best means to the highest end. Such is wisdom in the world as they don’t understand the word of the cross. And such is also the wisdom in those who live by the word of the cross and in its saving power through the Holy Spirit.
The wisdom of the cross, the wisdom of God in mystery, that is, a wisdom only known by God’s revelation, both objectively in the coming of Christ and subjectively by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is never known by the rulers of this world. They serve Satan, and, therefore, receive this power to rule. He is the prince of this world. John 14:30. Under this ruler of this world the rulers of this world are “inspired” unto a walk of the false prophet. They cannot see the plan of God unfolding while they see it being unfolded by God before their very eyes. It is hid from them. Not that the Gospel is not clearly proclaimed by Christ, the apostles and all the faithful witnesses of the word of the cross. Nay, this worldly wisdom is his since God’s wisdom is not “revealed” unto them in the “inner man,” enlightening the eyes, of their hearts!
Here is divine drama. Here is infinite tragedy that cannot ever be turned into a “divine comedy”! Here a Dante must be quiet and certainly be brought to naught! Ah, here Schopenhauer must speak in the midst of the ruins of civilization of the “Vanity of vanities,” without saying with the preacher: the sum of the whole matter is this; fear God and keep, His commandments, for such is the whole duty of man! All he can say in the bitterness of his spirit: I cannot agree with Leibnitz that this is “the best possible world”!
Shall we glorify all this “wisdom of this world”?
Nay, we shall try to see with sanctified eyes that God’s ways are in the holy place, even when evil men fail to see this way of God, which is veiled in “mystery,” and which can only be known by those to whom it is revealed!
Does not Paul say in his great sermon, recorded to us in Acts 13, and spoken in Antioch of Pisidia in the Jewish synagogue, that “they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him, and though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain . . .” Acts 13:27. And, again, do we not hear Jesus stop the mouth of the Sadducees, three days before His crucifixion, telling them that they knowneither the Scriptures nor the power of God? And were these Sadducees not “rulers of the world,” enemies of the cross of Christ and of His glorious resurrection, and thus ignorant of God’s wisdom in the Lord of glory?
But there is more in Scripture which clearly casts much light on this ignorance of the rulers of this world.
Is there anything that quite shows the divine irony in taking men in their own craftiness like the speech of Caiaphas? This high priest in Israel, after the order of Aaron, unwittingly utters the full wisdom of God, without realizing it, when he says, “Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” Remarkable utterance of Caiaphas! It reminds us of the utterances of Balaam when Israel is in the desert of Sinai. For the Holy Spirit in John tells us, “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. And not for, that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” And to make the divine wisdom all the more majestic, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God they make a formal resolution on this meeting where Caiaphas spoke, that all attempts will be made to put Jesus to death, albeit not the death of the cross. See verse 53 idem.
And to the bitter end we may see this wisdom of men and the wisdom of God in their interrelation and interplay. Think of the short notice in John 18:31, 32, where we read, “Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is unlawful for us to put any man to death.” And now notice carefully what the divine record says here: “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which he spake, signifying what death he should die.”
Here we see that the rulers of this world do not know the wisdom of God in mystery, as the Christ in this wisdom is the embodiment of all the power and grace of God. He becomes unto us from God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and complete redemption! And while this is being realized they do not understand the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Had they understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But now it never entered into the heart of man the things God was performing on the cross for His own. Caiaphas laid down his head that night and smiled in the thought that he had influenced the Sanhedrin to a decision in regard to this man who was a danger to the nation, bringing down the wrath of the Romans upon their heads. He did not understand. And the entire Sanhedrin will push their program to the end, only to be called out into the night in which Jesus is betrayed. And Pilate will not be able to not condemn an innocent man to death, and crucify the Lord of glory, in spite of the pleadings of his wife that he have nothing to do with this man.
Oh, had these known it their “wicked hands” would not have crucified our Lord.
Yes, the wisdom in mystery never entered into the heart of man. It entered really into the heart of no one. Not even into the heart of the disciples nearest to Him. Peter will defend Him, and then, when this is not permitted by Jesus, he will deny Him thrice. And it did not enter into the heart of any flesh and blood. Only when it is revealed, and to whom it is revealed, is this mystery known. And the rest continue in their worldly wisdom and, therefore, are perishing.
These latter receive no grace under the preaching. It is hid from them. They still do not understand the “Mysteries of the Kingdom.” Where is the Arminian “common grace” which a certain church in 1924 tried to combine with the Kuyperian theory of “general grace?” It too perishes!
Nay, says Paul, “we speak wisdom amongst the perfect.”
We shall say it with Paul. We shall speak the word of the cross. It defies all human unbelieving logic, while it is the highest logic of faith itself.
And thus we will glory in the Lord, believing that the Lord of glory will lay all the unbelievers low, and will crush them with the majesty of His rod of iron.